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Multiple ISS National Laboratory Payloads Return to Earth on SpaceX Cargo Ship

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
August 30, 2019
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KENNEDY SPACE CENTER (FL), August 29, 2019 – After 30 days berthed to the International Space Station (ISS), the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft completed its mission when it splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, bringing with it multiple investigations sponsored by the U.S. National Laboratory that were conducted on the orbiting platform.

Splashdown of the Dragon spacecraft concluded its 18th commercial resupply services (CRS-18) mission from SpaceX (contracted by NASA) to send critical research and supplies to the orbiting laboratory. Approximately 550 pounds of research and facilities sponsored by the ISS National Laboratory returned to Earth on this mission.

The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company’s advanced materials investigation examining silica particles in microgravity returned to Earth for further analysis. Silica is a common material used in consumer tires to help enhance fuel efficiency and traction.

While advances in silica technology have been made in many key areas of importance for the tire industry, silica microstructure still represents an area where research would be beneficial, and Goodyear hopes the microgravity environment of the space station could lead to the development of unique silica structures, resulting in enhanced tire performance.

This return mission also included 20 live mice that are part of Rodent Research Reference Mission-2, designed to provide multiple researchers with access to biospecimens after exposure to the microgravity environment onboard the space station

. Rodent Research Reference Missions maximize science return through tissue sharing and simplified experimental design to achieve higher-throughput science results with less strain on limited space station resources. Knowledge gained from the Rodent Research Reference Missions enables better disease modeling and promises to accelerate the development of therapeutics for terrestrial use.

Upon splashdown, the live mice were transferred to the Scripps Research Institute where researchers will conduct further analyses on the adaptation of the mice back to Earth-based conditions. The remaining 20 mice of the 40 mice launched to the space station for Rodent Research Reference Mission-2 will remain on the orbiting platform for additional exposure to microgravity.

Additionally, multiple protein crystal growth experiments returned with the Dragon spacecraft. Among those investigations is an experiment from Dover Lifesciences aimed at crystallizing two protein complexes, toward the development of new drugs to treat obesity and rare genetic disorders.

There is currently a significant unmet need for drugs to treat these conditions. Protein crystals grown in microgravity are often larger and more well-ordered than Earth-grown crystals. Higher-quality crystals can lead to improved datasets for structural determination to enhance the development of therapeutics to counter human diseases.

These are just a few of the investigations returning to Earth on SpaceX CRS-18. To learn more about ISS National Laboratory payloads associated with this mission, please visit 

About the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory: In 2005, Congress designated the U.S. portion of the ISS as the nation’s newest national laboratory to optimize its use for improving quality of life on Earth, promoting collaboration among diverse users, and advancing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. This unique laboratory environment is available for use by non-NASA U.S. government agencies, academic institutions, and the private sector. The ISS National Lab manages access to the permanent microgravity research environment, a powerful vantage point in low Earth orbit, and the extreme and varied conditions of space.

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